What is the link between pornography and depression? When is pornography an addiction, and does that alter the link it can have with mental health issues? Porn is a complicated topic in our society, complicated further by potential links with addiction and mental health.
We make no judgments about porn consumption. However, it’s important to look at the relationship between pornography, depression, and addiction.
Is There a Clear Link Between Depression and Porn in General?
There is no clear link between depression consumption and porn in general. In other words, someone choosing to watch porn doesn’t indicate anything at all about their mental health. Watching porn doesn’t mean that you’ll develop depressive symptoms.
Many people watch pornography, particularly in COVID times. The majority of porn users do not report any problems with their viewing habits. In fact, viewing porn can be part of a healthy sex life.
That said, there is some overlap with people who have depression.
In most cases, porn does not cause or trigger depression. In fact, there are both benefits and risks associated with porn use.
However, for a certain subset of people, porn use becomes problematic.
Porn Consumption vs. Porn Addiction
Porn consumption is one thing, whereas porn addiction is another. Porn is most commonly linked with depression when it becomes an addiction.
An addiction is best described as a habit that you want to stop, but can’t, due to psychological or physical dependence. Moreover, it causes a negative impact in one or more areas of life.
Someone who has viewed pornography a few times isn’t addicted to it. Someone who consciously chooses to view it regularly and doesn’t have any negative issues associated with it is not dealing with porn addiction.
But a person might have porn addiction if:
- Porn use is a compulsive sexual behavior that they do without consciously choosing to
- They have trouble achieving sexual satisfaction without pornography
- Pornography has caused trouble for them at work, school, or in their relationship
- They need to watch more porn, and more types of porn, to reach arousal
- They want to stop watching porn but can’t
Porn Addiction, Like Any Addiction, Can Be a Cause of Depression
There is a correlative relationship between depression and addiction. This is true of all forms of addiction, including pornography addiction. Porn addiction is a behavioral addiction, like gambling or compulsive shopping.
However, research hasn’t yet determined whether porn use or depression comes first when they’re linked.
In other words, can porn trigger depression? Or do people with depression have more of a tendency to turn to porn for self-medication? No study shows definitively one way or the other.
Chances are that it’s a cycle. Someone in the midst of depression might turn to porn for distraction or as a way to feel something, instead of feeling the numbness often associated with depression. However, the person might also feel guilty or bad about themselves for watching porn, which furthers the depression.
Internet Addiction and Pornography Depression
Likewise, screen addiction has an impact on the brain. People develop Internet addiction, including pornography addiction, in part because of the relationship viewing has to dopamine release.
Basically, when you scan through the Internet, your brain looks for something that “feels good.” The likes on social media, the funny cat video, and intriguing new porn all have that in common. They hit our brain, releasing dopamine, and we feel good.
However, we constantly have to go back for more dopamine. We keep scrolling through social media, turning to it again and again throughout the day, in search of that intermittent reward that gives us the dopamine. Likewise, porn addicts will keep clicking on new videos and new sites to get that dopamine hit.
Messing with the chemicals in our brain this way can trigger or exacerbate depression. On the one hand, the dopamine feels good. But then it goes away and we’re left with depressed feelings. Someone with pornography depression may feel a little better while using porn. Then they’ll get acclimated to that feeling and need more, different porn more frequently to achieve the same feeling.
What is Pornography Depression?
While there is no clear link between general porn consumption and depression, there is such a thing as pornography depression.
Someone can experience worsening symptoms of depression as a result of porn addiction or overconsumption of porn. Moreover, people with depression who use porn as a coping mechanism may be at risk of addiction, which can exacerbate other depression symptoms.
One helpful tip is to track your porn consumption as well as your moods. Over time, you may notice that there’s a direct relationship between pornography and depression. For example, you might see that when you experience depressive symptoms, you turn to porn. Alternatively, you might see that when you watch porn for too long, you have more depressive periods. Monitoring your experience helps you get a fuller picture of what’s going on in your mind and body.
A non-judgmental therapist can help you work through pornography depression. You can get a sense of what porn use, if any, is right for you. Moreover, you can learn coping skills to reduce or eliminate depression systems. Contact us for an appointment today.